When I first set out to pen this column, I had planned to write about the lack of civility and rudeness that seems so rampant in today’s society. With this assignment in mind, I embarked on a mission to observe and report bad behavior in and around Charleston, as well as other parts of the state.
However, what I observed was far from what I expected. Instead of witnessing nasty, impolite conduct, I saw incredible acts of kindness, civility, empathy and compassion.
Below are just a few examples of the benevolence and graciousness I observed in just two short days:
- As I was walking to my car during an unexpected downpour (sans umbrella), a kind woman ran up to me with her umbrella and asked if she could walk me to my car.
- While digging in my purse to find a quarter in order to “rent” a shopping cart at a local grocery store, a complete stranger gave me his cart to use. When I tried to pay him, he refused, and said, “Just pass it on.”
- As I was checking out of the same grocery store, a lady in the line ahead of me came up a few cents short at the cash register and couldn’t pay for her items. The person in line behind her stepped forward and paid her bill.
- When I witnessed a gentleman take a bad fall on Capitol Street, not one, not two, but three people rushed to his aid. And these kind citizens stayed with him until they were assured that he was not seriously hurt. One even escorted the visibly shaken man to his car.
- While doing business at the New River Health Center in Fayette County, I lost my cellphone. Convinced it was stolen from my car, I immediately reported it to the folks working there. The employees instantly kicked in to high gear to assist me. Everyone from the receptionist, nurses and even their IT guy stepped in to help.
As it turned out, no one had stolen my phone. Nope. Clumsy me apparently dropped it in the parking lot, where a very kind patient found it laying there. This patient called the “in case this phone is found, please call this number” listed on the back of my phone (which is my husband’s cellphone number).
My husband, who was sitting in his office in Charleston, answered. The patient identified who she was, and told him that she had found this cellphone laying in the Health Center parking lot. He then called the Health Center in Fayette County, who relayed the message to the receptionist, who relayed the message to the office manager, who relayed the message back to me, that my phone had indeed been found.
Then this kind patient, who had already left the facility, drove my phone back to me. I felt like a complete heel for claiming it was stolen.
Speaking of phones, my husband also experienced a great example of the friendly, never-met-a-stranger attitude of West Virginians. He thought he had dialed my cellphone and inadvertently dialed a wrong number.
When a male voice answered, my husband immediately said, “I’m sorry, I must have dialed the wrong number.” The voice on the on the end said, “That’s OK buddy, I saw the incoming call was from West Virginia, so I thought I’d answer. I’m from Braxton County and I’m sitting here in Florida getting ready for a fishing trip. Too much rain today, but it’s supposed to clear up. I’m glad because my son and grandkids are coming down tomorrow. What’s the weather like back home? I sure do miss West Virginia.”
My husband said they talked for over five minutes before hanging up. Total and complete strangers, yet sharing a common bond: West Virginia.
Other examples of good ol’ West Virginia niceness
When I worked for a Fortune 500 company, part of my responsibility was training new employees. The company would fly folks from all over the country to Charleston for an intensive three days of instruction and guidance on their new position.
Every time one of these individuals from out of state visited, they always commented on the kind and friendly nature of our citizens. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Wow! West Virginians sure are nice people.”
In Pocahontas County, where my mom’s family is from, it was common to sit on the porch in the evening to talk about the day’s happenings. When the rare car would pass by the house, everyone sitting on the porch would wave or nod a hello (or “hi-do”). If the passersby didn’t wave, my grandmother would say, “Must be someone from out of state, because they didn’t wave.”
When flying home from a really exhausting business trip, I’m always happy to see the gate for the flight back to West Virginia. Inevitably, I’ll run into someone I know. It’s rare to sit at the gate and not hear, “What county are you from? Do you know so-and-so?”
Nine times out of 10, most folks will know someone. The plane ride home often feels like a family trip.
I’m not so naive to think we don’t have our share of incivility and rudeness. We do. But I think our good nature and our acts of kindness far outweigh the bad.
Most of us West Virginians look you in the eye when we speak to you. Countless numbers of us say hello when passing on the street, even if we don’t know each other. Many exhibit that never-met-a-stranger attitude my husband experienced when he dialed the wrong number that day.
It’s an attitude of authenticity, kindness and honesty. I am proud to be a West Virginian, and I know most of you are as well.
Please share any examples you may have about the kindness of the people of our state. I would love to share them in this column. If you’re like me, I’m tired of hearing the same old boorish “backward hillbilly” comments and jokes about our people. Let’s change the narrative — after all, it is almost heaven!